It is important not to cave. Ted Cruz has a PAC promoting him on cable television and he’s sucking in funding from wackos all over the universe. There is no GOP leadership. Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner, of all places, has summed it up nicely:
The 2010 Citizens United ruling has spawned super PACs that offset the power of the political parties and K Street. The Republican earmark ban has taken away a vote-whipping tool. The Internet’s advances have turned the grassroots into kudzu vines. The committee process has grown feeble. And all of these changes have injected an anti-establishment fervor into the GOP base.
In Sam Rayburn’s days as Speaker of the House, these Tea Partiers would have long since been gelded. In those days, if you crossed leadership, your constituents paid the price. This is no longer the case. Thanks to some really excellent work gerrymandering in 2011, the Republican Clown Car represents districts woven like doilies, stringing together spider web communities of like minded political carnies.
There is simply no penalty for these folks in the current political environment, other than when the sleeping public occasionally wakes up and says “Hey! Wait a minute. What?!?”
We get the leadership we deserve. While making complete fools of themselves in debate after debate, they were working diligently on the local level, winning some key battles and getting redistricting “just right.” One wonders what parties their opponents were attending while they ought to have been paying attention. Our constant election cycle is hard work.
Sometimes we stay in power long enough to become complacent. In Iowa, Tom Vilsack was a great governor and left a strong Democratic Party in Iowa. In came a second generation Culver, whose nickname was “the big lug.” Unlike his dad, Chet Culver was an awkward, unconvincing politician who didn’t appear to have much foresight, let alone vision. He reportedly threw some wild parties. A lot of us got very turned off and ignored his re-election. We also ignored the return of Terry Branstad, who is truly Darth Vader in overalls.
This was a huge mistake. Culver was clueless. Branstad is cunning, vengeful and acquisitive.
The GOP is not a circus. A circus is highly organized entertainment practiced by experienced, highly trained professionals. What is going on in the GOP is bad for our country.
It’s the dying gasp of a sick culture. There are a lot of people with significant money to spend who are threatened by the Affordable Care Act, by marriage for everybody, by immigration reform, by staying out of war and downsizing our military. They lose money on this. They are the minority in our country and this is still a democracy. These guys can come up with money, but they can’t deliver votes. Their influence diminishes if their causes threaten the candidate’s reelection.
You can’t stop what’s happening. My generation is aging fast and folks ahead of me are dropping like flies. Younger people are taking over and they are for the most part not like Ted Cruz. These young people did not grow up in the Reagan era. They grew up wondering if their parents would have jobs, or if they’d lose their homes. They are looking at college debt and global warming and wondering what in hell we’re leaving them.
Do not save this GOP by giving them a graceful way out. Do not give fuel to the lie that “both sides are responsible” for this. Both sides are not responsible for this. It is wrong to hold the nation hostage over a political battle you have already lost. Let this work until the public is awake and alarmed at these forty or so politicians, still getting paid during this shutdown for stopping government altogether.
Crush this so called “movement.” Let it dig a hole so deep that it drowns in its own offal. Make sure it’s dead before you call the ambulance.Leave a Comment
In 1921 J. Ramsay Mac Donald made comments about the effects of World War One upon clearly thinking, intelligent people and was dismayed by how such people were in a small minority. He contrasts reasonable thoughts about war to the thinking of those who allow themselves to be blown along in the whirlwind of patriotic fervor. These people, he said, would be worked-up into a state of mind that would:
“…. not only defy every appeal to reason, but would prolong the agony and settle it, as all wars have hitherto been settled, by crushing debts, ruined ideals and a peace which would only be a truce to give time for the sowing of new seeds of war.”
It amazes me that what was written 92 years ago seems so apposite to the present situation we find ourselves in with the bellicose words of the President appealing to the patriotic American. It may look as if we have averted war, but this may be a temporary respite. I appeal to every patriot to think again about the debt associated with a war against the Syrians and the seeds of war that this will sow amongst nations in the region. Reconsider now, before it is too late. Now is the time for reason to prevail.Leave a Comment
I’m in the waning days of my corporate job. The days in which it is harder and harder to make it to work on time or stay until I can reasonably slip out without looking like I have a raging case of short-timer’s disease. I do. Anyone would.
My nickname here, which has been applied behind my back, though I’m aware of and even relish it, is “Dr. No.” When I first got wind of it, I was naturally a little defensive. Most of us show up to do a good job, and I’m no different. No one likes to be labeled, especially in such negative terms, but I believe in my direction and this has given me ownership of all its aspects, including the perceptions it creates in others. I’m kind of proud to be “Dr. No.”
I lead a group of creative professionals—photographers, designers, writers, web specialists, and the like—in the development of materials that are singularly focused on sparking interest in the products we manufacture. The team’s success is—or should be—measured by the number of requests for information we receive from our target markets. The goal is that simple. The work, however, is not.
I’m called “Dr. No” because when I became head of this department there were few, if any, boundaries drawn around the work expected of the group. When someone on the Continuous Improvement team needed a poster to promote a particular topic to the larger organization (some 1,000+ people), they naturally tapped the creative group for help. When a long-time employee retired, the photographer was generally asked to take pictures at the party. The list of small one-off projects was long and tedious, and each request alone was perfectly manageable—a reasonable idea. But we’re a lean team (and I mean bone-thin), supporting a global marketing effort. I knew this mountain of tiny jobs was snowing us under, and the first time I learned that we weren’t hitting the mark in fill-in-the-blank country, I pulled out my axe and started hacking the list down to only the activities that had a direct impact on our core mission. We needed to focus and become better educated about what each market needed, and spending our time designing tear-off pads for customer service was preventing us from doing it.
The predictable outcome of telling people that while, yes, I think your request is a nice idea, but we can’t afford the time away from our priorities, is that only your closest allies will stand behind you. To everyone else, you are now the enemy. You can summarize your rationale any way you want, but the thing you have to come to terms with is that others will see you as difficult. They will accuse you of not being a team player or doing what is best for the business. It’s a hard thing to weather, but if you fail to make those hard decisions, you may as well go home.
It’s no different with writing or any artistic endeavor. In order to be successful, or even show progress toward your goal (which you damn well better have defined or you’re on the road to nowhere), you have to say no to things that seem perfectly manageable on their own. You are certain to disappoint people, and in the artistic world (unlike the corporate world), those people are more likely to be your loved ones.
I recently read Huffington Post’s list of 14 Authors Behaving Badly and I had to wonder, first, why I wasn’t on the list! Okay… I’m not that famous, but if I were, I would definitely make that list. The second thing I wondered was how much of their behavior was perceived through the eyes of the person being told “no” (so to speak). Some, like VU Naipaul, are clearly just blind assholes. But others, I’m not so quick to judge. They’ve reached a level of success that has eluded most, and I suspect it has more than a little to do with not worrying about what others think of them. I believe their single-minded focus on the goal makes them seem difficult and hard to work with. Big deal. We love the products they produce.
I’m leaving people behind at my corporate job who have never understood my actions regarding our work. They may even cheer my departure, but not because my team failed to meet its goals. I can only hope that my successor is up for the battle of keeping those goals in sight. And I’m not taking my nickname with me as a token of my time here; I earned it long before I arrived. With any luck, it’ll secure my spot on the next list of Authors Behaving Badly.Leave a Comment
Using these words was how the journalist, writer, historian and politician, Michael Foot, wrote about how imperative it is to be able to level criticism within a democratic society. No person or institution, according to Foot, and most definitely no leader, was above criticism. Thus, he says:
“…. If they expect to be praised – as most public men (sic) do – they must also expect to be criticized….”.
Continuing Foot notes how under democratic principles the concept that anyone, including our leaders and those in power, are not a special breed of humanity: They do not possess the right to determine which arguments are fit for everyday folk to hear about or participate in. If we allow selective debate and permit our leaders the ability to determine when, where, whom and what we are able to criticize, we are capitulating under the belief:
“…. That the few posses a wisdom which the many cannot be expected to share. It implies, second, that society …. Has no need for the awkward, unorthodox, challenging minority …. It implies, finally, that the established ruling few possess infallibility; for if the leadership of a nation, a party …. is never to be attacked, how can errors be exposed or the process of education go forward”.
Foot wrote these words in November 1954. Almost 60 years later, the words are as true now as they were then. However, back at the middle of the last century, nobody was able to imagine how communication could have changed, how social media could have revolutionized political dissent and social activism. In a previous article I stated the need for Facebook in particular, and all other social media sites in general, to allow and to encourage negative and dissenting opinion by providing ‘dislike’ buttons: I here reiterate this obligation.
The debate over open access and open dissent on the Internet obviously extends far beyond these brief thoughts. However, I am here stressing the point that little has changed over 60 years and there is still a need to actively facilitate minority opinion. As communication moves online so must the ability to express open criticism.
I will close this brief reflection on how important it is that a society has the ability to dislike it’s powerful and leading classes, with more words from Michael Foot:
“A real understanding of freedom means a willingness to tolerate (sic), not only not only the views of the majority or those which have won considerable favour, but the irritating, defiant, even ill-expressed and outrageous opinions of the minorities which may still contain the essential grain of wisdom….”.Leave a Comment
Nathan Bell is a friend of mine and as such you may feel I am somewhat prejudiced in my opinions of his work. I’m not. Age and basic personality have allowed me to be completely honest, to the point of blunt trauma criticism in reviewing the work of people I feel close to. I listened to “Blood Like A River” when it was in its rough stages. I was overwhelmed then, and now, as a finished opus, I am simply overjoyed that this collection of songs is available to the general public. As a slight aside, I feel that “Blue Kentucky Gone” is one of the finest songs I’ve ever heard. Sit down, listen to it and then allow your mind to attempt to create that narrative within a three minute boundary. Staggering.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts 2013
In the summer of 2011, I opened a box that had been closed for twenty years. It was a box full of notes and mementoes from a road trip two decades earlier, when — in our early twenties — my best friend and I spent several months traveling across the country and back. I wanted to see the Deep South and she wanted to see the southwest so after setting out from Pittsburgh, we headed south and then west. We went as far as Los Angeles and then turned around and came back.
I began sifting through this box because, after nearly a decade of writing nothing at all, I was trying to write a story. I was a few years into my forties and trying to write about a young woman’s adolescence and early adulthood, and so I was seeking a way to conjure again, for myself, the emotional intensity of youth.
In the box were photos and relics and jottings and journal entries about the dozens of people we had met along the road. Circus performers in Georgia and prison rodeo cowboys in Angola and the son of a voodoo priestess in New Orleans and Nathan Bell in Nashville.
My only souvenir of Nathan was the briefest journal entry about meeting him. But I didn’t need more, because I remembered him. We hadn’t spoken since our one-time meeting twenty years before, and we had barely spoken then. There was no romantic encounter, no conversation of any depth. I recalled little more than his face and his name and his inexplicably memorable presence.
I looked him up online and listened to a couple of clips of his music and then, because these clips left me nothing to decide, I ordered the CD version of Black Crow Blue.
My children were very young then. At that time, it was only in the car that I could access anything like a contemplative state and for weeks I was never in the car without Nathan’s CD. I felt held by it, rocked, lulled, transported. His music was like the moan of a distant locomotive or the hardscrabble landscape beyond the tracks, harmonica riffs drifting skyward like smoke from a transient’s campfire, his hoarse voice a fragment of a ghost story or an oracle.
His songs were sepia-drenched cameo portraits of a range of American characters: civil servants killed in the line of duty, a solitary woman wedded to her records, cowboys and Indians and gamblers and Christians and a couple of archetypal escape artists called The Striker and Crow. They were mostly about the lonely and abandoned, the resigned and the dispossessed: dwellers in the dark shadow of the American dream. His music was gentle and mesmerizing and melancholic yet not depressive. It was like rain falling into a deep well.
I went looking for more about him. And as I read the reviews and articles and all manner of Internet lore and the CD’s own liner notes, something startling emerged. It turned out that Nathan Bell knew something about not writing for a very long time. Black Crow Blue was his first release in twelve years, and for the better part of that time, he hadn’t so much as touched his guitar (nor any of the many other instruments he knew how to play).
I’d opened that box in an effort to revisit my own youth, but Black Crow Blue delivered me back to precisely where I was in the present, because few of us reach middle age without a passing acquaintance with Nathan’s themes: burned idealism and betrayal and loss. Intimacy with defeat and the sorrow of mortality. Humility and gratitude and unlikely, unbridled joy. And love, overbrimming like a river after a flash flood. His music was like a map with an arrow: YOU ARE HERE. And for me, it held not just permission but the unsentimental imperative to write from that place.
I sent him a letter. I tried to tell him about how his album affected me, though writing about music is hard for me. And I told him that his departure from music and long-deferred return to it meant something to me too.
“The fact that you didn’t play your guitar for twelve years speaks directly to me, as I spent the better part of the last decade not writing a word of fiction,” I said in the letter. “I’m writing again now. I’ve had Black Crow Blue on while writing, and it’s helping me.” I asked him why he’d stopped playing and why he began again. I asked whether it was fair to say that music had broken his heart.
“No,” he wrote back. “Music never broke my heart. I wasn’t ready to be a writer yet, wasn’t really the musician I knew I wanted to be. All of my heroes growing up were older musicians, people who had really lived lives and were writing from that perspective. In my heart of hearts, I knew that I had to let the universe teach me and sometimes that means surrendering everything. I guess somewhere in my heart there was a tiny spark and when the time came, it turned into more.”
I sent him my first book and he sent me an advance copy of Blood Like A River: twelve tender, beautifully rendered, bittersweet new tracks that unmistakably bear Nathan’s signature and yet are unlike anything I’ve heard before. These are songs about a mother lost and another found, and devotion under siege, and our veteran dead. They include a true story of Nathan’s encounter with a gunman, in which time slows and then implodes, and thirty years later, his life is flashing before him still. They’re about the broken and bewildered, the resigned and resilient, even – against all odds — the undaunted, the jubilant. And as always, always, these songs are about love, love in spite of everything (and because of everything), lying beneath and rising above everything: the love that is our lifeblood, like a river, tying us together.
Elissa Wald- Author of “Meeting the Master” and “The Secret Lives of Married Women”
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